Learning Japanese - The Nihongo FAQ

Discussion in 'General Tutorials' started by Densetsu, May 1, 2011.

May 1, 2011
  1. Densetsu
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    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    UPDATE: Since many of you contribute so many excellent resources, I've decided to stop adding everything to the first post, or it would quickly become a jumbled mess of links. Instead, if any of you are interested in the resources that are shared on this thread, simply "Watch" this thread so you'll receive a notification every time a post is made here. Then you can check out the contributed resources yourself and decide for yourself if you want to use/save/bookmark it. As much as I would love to add your resources, I think this is the most practical way to go. Thanks for understanding!​

    [​IMG]

    In loving memory of Densetsu.

    Introduction (前書き)
    I've seen quite a few questions on this forum asking how to go about learning Japanese. For native English speakers, Japanese is widely regarded as the most difficult language to learn (though I think that's up for debate). With a grammatical structure and writing system that developed completely independently of any of the Germanic or Romance languages, it can seem a daunting task figuring out just how to begin tackling the mystical language of the ninja. And yet, with so much cool stuff coming out of Japan, the rewards of mastering this language are myriad. For this reason, I started thinking about putting together a list of resources and providing some advice to anyone interested.

    I would like to see this evolve into a place where people can post questions about Japanese grammar, specific translation questions (NOT translation requests), or just general questions about the Japanese language and the process of studying/learning it. I urge other members who are more proficient than I am can contribute their knowledge to help others on this thread. I hope to have a little bit of something here for every level from beginners to advanced learners.

    If you have an idea for this FAQ, I'm open to comments, suggestions and constructive criticism. I'll do my best to accommodate all requests, as long as it's a serious request.
    My Japanese Background (or, why I feel qualified to write this guide)
    Why Learn Japanese?
    Beginner (初級)

    Where to Start
    Some of the Most Popular Beginning Textbooks

    Beginner Recommendations by BortzANATOR:

    Beginner Recommendations by Issac:

    Intermediate (中級)

    Assuming you have learned some basic Japanese (see the section above), you can move on to the intermediate stages. If you have not gone through at least one textbook and more or less retained most of the information from it, you are not ready to progress to the intermediate level. Learn to walk before you run.

    At the intermediate stage, you should be acquiring more and more vocabulary (with a focus on learning the kanji used in those words), memorizing more grammar, and beginning to break out into non-textbook Japanese. The best way to ease into "real" Japanese literature is by reading manga. At this stage this is probably the single most important thing you can do to boost your proficiency.

    Bruce Lee believed that having a strong core would increase the power that the body could output in every movement, and it appears he was right. Reading manga is to Japanese study as working your core is to athletic training. Learning to read manga is the foundation for acquiring a high level of Japanese literacy, and ultimately, speaking fluency. With manga, you learn native spoken grammar (as opposed to awkward textbook grammar), vocabulary and kanji. Even listening comprehension is somewhat improved, because as you acquire more vocabulary and are made aware of the existence of more and more words, you will begin to hear these words in conversation, when you are listening to audio in Japanese, or watching videos in Japanese.

    But one thing you should be careful about is the vocabulary that is used in certain manga, especially period manga (such as Ruroni Kenshin) or fantasy manga (Bleach, Naruto, etc.). Exclaiming "dattebayo" to a native Japanese speaker during a normal conversation will undoubtedly elicit strange looks. Make sure that you read manga for the grammar, and when you come across a word you don't know, don't bother memorizing it if it's not useful to know outside of the context of the manga you're reading. I should note here that I personally know a lot of expatriates who lived (or currently live) in Japan, but only a handful of them ever reached a high level of fluency. With a few exceptions, the thing they all had in common is that they all read Japanese manga when they were learning. Those who never really learned how to speak, never read anything in Japanese outside of their textbooks. Some might argue that all you need to do is get a Japanese girlfriend to learn Japanese, but (1) that's not practical outside of Japan, and (2) you'll end up speaking like a girl, and your girlfriend will never correct you because she thinks it's "cute." So read manga.

    Intermediate Resources
    Other Grammar Books
    Free Intermediate Resources Online
    Recommended Intermediate Textbooks

    Intermediate Recommendations by Phoenix Goddess:

    Intermediate-Advanced (中・上級)
    Now you're really delving deep into the rabbit ninja hole! At this point, you probably have no need for textbooks and should be getting into real literature. At this level of learning, there are very few books that teach in English. From this point on, you have to get used to the idea of learning Japanese--in Japanese.
    Recommended Resources:

    Advanced (上級)



    Miscellaneous (その他)

    This section contains stuff that I couldn't really classify into the other sections. Although it's all Japanese language-related, anyone from any proficiency level can check these out.
    • How to Play (and comprehend!) Japanese Games: A very handy guide by DS1 (a.k.a., the Legendary Mahjong Warrior) on how to play Japanese games without actually having to know much Japanese. It's a different philosophy and approach to Japanese games from what I offer here, but it's definitely worth a look.
    • Nihongo Resources: This website explains grammar, particles, counters, and contains some other useful information. It even includes a free PDF of the entire contents of the website in book format. The PDF is bare-bones, but the explanations are decent, and hey, it's free! (thanks vbkun!)
     
    Last edited by Issac, Aug 25, 2016


  2. machomuu

    Member machomuu Drops by occasionally

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    I have a question. If you want to say something like "The Legend of Moon Reader" would it be said "Densetsu no Tsukuyomi" or "Tsukuyomi no Densetsu"?
     
  3. Schlupi

    Member Schlupi Gbatemp's Official Earthbound Maniac™

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    It would be "Densetsu no Tsukuyomi".
     
  4. Densetsu
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    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    The second one is correct (Tsukiyomi no Densetsu).

    The first one (Densetsu no Tsukiyomi) means "Legendary Moon Reader"

    *EDIT*
    Check Tae Kim's guide to Japanese grammar for an explanation of how to use "no". Scroll down to where it says "The 「の」 particle." If you still have questions about it, let me know [​IMG]
     
  5. Joe88

    Member Joe88 [λ]

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    im gonna give Rosetta Stone with Japanese V3 Level 1 a try over the summer
     
  6. Schlupi

    Member Schlupi Gbatemp's Official Earthbound Maniac™

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    Huh. I always thought that it goes the other way around. How strange.

    AH! Right my teacher told me the difference between Legend of and Legendary. I forgot.
     
  7. Densetsu
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    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    I've never used it, but some of my friends have had varying degrees of success with it. I guess it just depends on your level of commitment. Let me know if you need any clarification and I'd be happy to help out. Good luck!
     
  8. Joe88

    Member Joe88 [λ]

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    yeah some people said its great and others say it sucks

    I only want to hear and understand it
    im not looking into reading, writing, and speaking it
     
  9. The Pi

    Member The Pi Lurker

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    Looking good so far. [​IMG]

    Learning Japanese is one of my main plans for the summer. *bookmarks*
     
  10. Densetsu
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    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    And completing this guide is one of my main plans for the summer [​IMG] Thanks for bookmarking, it'll give me even more motivation to work on this knowing that others are interested in it.
     
  11. Wabsta

    Member Wabsta you fight like a dairy farmer

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    It's awesome. I started learning japanese a while ago, and I'm sure this is going to help me!
     
  12. WiiUBricker

    Member WiiUBricker Insert Custom Title

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    Densetsu: How many years of studying japanese do you think are sufficient till a middle twenty year old guy can play japanese games without problems?
     
  13. MaxNuker

    Member MaxNuker GBATemp's Official Shinigami Substitute

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    I started watching anime at the age of 12-13... im 14 years now... one of my future plans ( and i want to learn on the summer, because i have 3 month vacations) and i wanna learn japanese and electric guitar [​IMG]

    i love jrock and jpop... i wanna learn some jrock music riffs... especially the riff from: SuG - Gr8 Story ... its at 1:50 more or less...

    here is the music video for it:
    http://www.jpopasia.com/play/26132/sug/gr8-story.html
     
  14. Ziko

    Member Ziko GBAtemp Regular

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    Thank you for going through this trouble to set up this guide. I will use it to the fullest. I want to understand the stories of the Japanese games I play plus the news articles as well. But first learning the Kana as well as other things will come soon.

    One reason is because I watch Japanese TV (Super Sentai/Kamen Rider fan) and while I don't have a hard time grasping what's going on since the stories are relatively easy to follow, it can get hectic at times. Another reason is because I own a R4 and play Japanese games with it and have some issues with story/menus, etc. This could take some time.
     
  15. Carl326

    Newcomer Carl326 Member

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    Just out of interest for someone currently majoring in japanese. How many words do you think is required to be learnt to read say a novel geared towards adults? As of currently I know around 8000ish but I'm finding that I need to look up words in the dictionary every 2 or 3 sentences.
     
  16. machomuu

    Member machomuu Drops by occasionally

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    Yeah, games, anime, manga, as well as just the mere experience are the reasons I want to learn japanese. Also, I'd really like to play Draglade 2, Rune Factory Oceans, but most of all, Gyakuten Kenji 2 and Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright.
     
  17. Issac

    Member Issac Mini-mod

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    Looking forward to see this Tutorial/FAQ/Thingy develop!
    I'm studying, and have been studying, Japanese through email lessons from a japanese man called "Megumi Nanasawa"... Even though Megumi is a woman's name...?

    Anyway. I really recommend his lessons, though they do cost money, but he sends you lessons in understandable engrish, you will do the exercises and mail him back, and he will correct it and give suggestions (and if you fail too much, you will have to redo the lesson) and each third (approximately) lesson, he gives you review exercises not part of the standard lessons (first "class" is 40 lessons + extras, then there is an "advanced class" with 40 more)... I don't remember the price, since I started more than 5 years ago, (and since I've been so busy I've just gotten to lesson 8) but he still answer me when I mail him and even was ok with me restarting after 4 lessons, since I had a break from it all for 3 years [​IMG]
    Highly recommend it, I've learned a lot even though I'm just a simple beginner.
     
  18. Densetsu
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    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    It really depends on how hard you work. I know people who went from zero to near-fluent in 2 years without ever setting foot in Japan. I know others who have lived in Japan for 15 years and can't even order a pizza over the phone. If you're talking about taking typical Japanese courses in high school or a university, I think you'd be able to play a lot of Japanese games without trouble. But if you want to play text-heavy games such as RPGs, you should make it a point to learn as much kanji as possible. The advantage of knowing kanji is that even if you encounter a word that you've never seen before, if you know the individual kanji characters contained in the word, you'll be able to figure out what it means based on context.

    Here's an example of why I find kanji so interesting:
    The Japanese word for "contradiction" is "mujun" (矛盾).

    The kanji are as follows:
    矛 (mu) = hoko = spear
    盾 (jun) = tate = shield

    How did putting "spear" and "shield" together ever come to mean "contradiction?" Well, there's an ancient Chinese story about a merchant who went around claiming to sell a spear that could pierce through anything, and a shield that could block any attack. A wise man asked, "what would happen if you used your spear on your shield?
    When I heard that story, I never forgot what mujun meant ever again.

    Thanks for your support! I will do what I can to help anyone serious about studying Japanese.

    Yeah, that sounds about right. Even now, I still find myself reaching for a dictionary when I'm reading a novel. I "eased" myself into novels by reading the Harry Potter series. I own all of the books in English and Japanese. Some days I would read a chapter in English, then read the same chapter in Japanese. It wasn't so bad because the chapters were short enough to remember for the most part, and when I read the Japanese chapter I could follow along. Other days I would read the Japanese chapter first, then refer to the English chapter only when I couldn't figure out what a sentence meant. I did this for the entire series, and by the time I was done I was able to read through the entire Chronicles of Narnia in Japanese without the help of the English versions. The last novel I read in Japanese was The da Vinci Code. I had to use my Canon Wordtank G70 almost every other sentence. Granted, even the English version had a lot of words that I didn't know [​IMG]

    That sounds pretty awesome! Though the focus of this topic will be to collect and share free online resources for people to study Japanese. Also, I'm willing to answer anyone's grammar questions for free [​IMG]

    Post restored by Issac @ November 22nd 2015
     
    Last edited by Issac, Nov 22, 2015
  19. Seicomart

    Member Seicomart GBAtemp Regular

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    Good to hear you are still studying Densetsu9000, its been 20 years for me now and I view languages as a life-long study. I used to live in Sapporo and spent a fair bit of time in Tokyo, which I enjoyed far less. Funny how in Japan, the doctors would speak to me in Japanese, then write their notes in German. I'd imagine this has its roots in "Dutch learning" which gave way to "German learning" though could be wrong. I'm lucky in that my wife of 13 years happens to be Japanese.

    There are a number of apps for the Android platform, such as a portable version of Edict which are invaluable, must be some for other platforms too I imagine.

    I have never heard of, or seen anybody get anywhere near "fluent" within 2 years, although naturally for picking up the reading/writing is much easier for Chinese or Koreans who have already learnt their native languages first.
     
  20. Densetsu
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    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    Yeah, it's definitely a life-long commitment...I'll admit that I started learning Japanese at first because I only wanted to understand manga. Also, Japanese wasn't nearly as popular back then as it is now, so it was kind of a unique language to study. But the longer I studied it, the more I realized that there much more compelling reasons to study Japanese than just reading manga or "being cool." I love Sapporo--been there twice for the Yuki Matsuri they hold every February. Oh and the miso ramen...I'll never have ramen that good again [​IMG]

    I have an iPhone, and one of the apps I use for it is Kotoba! It's one of my favorite free Japanese apps.

    Yeah, I try not to use the word "fluent" because it's impossible to gauge fluency, and everyone's standard of fluency is different. The person I know who became "near-fluent" within two years happens to have a photographic memory, can do complex mathematical calculations in his head and can speak a few other languages. He has also worked for the NSA, something to do with network security but he never told me what. When I think of the archetypical genius, he fits the bill perfectly. Most other people I know attained a comfortable level of speaking and comprehension after 4-5 years. It really helps when you have a Japanese girlfriend/boyfriend [​IMG]
     

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